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Quarterback Robert Griffin III showed some of his rookie form two weeks ago, escaping the rush, making plays and leading the Washington Redskins to a 24-14 road victory over the Oakland Raiders.
Yet it wasn't enough to keep Dallas Cowboys cornerback Brandon Carr from making a bold statement ... or to concede that the old Griffin has returned.
"He doesn't look the same," Carr said Thursday on the NFL Network. "That's not saying we're going to fall asleep on him. He still has the same arm strength. He still has same type of elusive ability once he gets outside the pocket. ... But we know he's not the same."
He doesn't look the same. That's not saying we're going to fall asleep on him. He still has the same arm strength. He still has some type of elusive ability once he gets outside the pocket. ... But we know he's not the same.” -- Cowboys CB Brandon Carr,
on Redskins QB Robert Griffin III
Redskins receiver Pierre Garcon said just about the same thing two weeks ago. Other teams have said as much after facing the Redskins, knowing that Griffin and his surgically repaired right knee are not operating at peak efficiency. And there's no doubt the Redskins' offense is not the same as it was a year ago. That's one reason (but far from the only one) that Washington is 1-3 and desperately needs a win Sunday against the Cowboys.
But it always feels different when it comes from an opponent before a game, even if few would disagree. Carr gets points for speaking the truth, and his comments add a smidgen of spice to a rivalry week devoid of much sizzle.
Cowboys coach Jason Garrett was more diplomatic in a conference call Wednesday.
"It seems like he's running a little bit less than he did last year in his rookie season," Garrett said, "but still he's a very dangerous athlete and he's very comfortable out in space, so making sure you contain him and keep him in the pocket is critical, and that's what you're trying to do every week. When the quarterback does have the athletic ability, you want to limit those plays they make out in space."
The real question, though, is this: Does it matter?
Dallas' defense doesn't look the same as last season, either, and Griffin might be able to pick apart the Cowboys without needing to run around much. In last season's 38-31 road win, Griffin threw for 304 yards and four touchdowns. He ran seven times but gained only 29 yards.
"We don't know what we're dealing with in RG III," Cowboys owner/general manager Jerry Jones said Friday on KRLD-FM. "I know that if we're dealing with the same guy that came in here last year, that's enough to lay awake at night about. That was about as impactful a player as we've seen come through here last year."
However, the Cowboys' focus on his legs definitely helped the Redskins that day, especially on Aldrick Robinson's 68-yard touchdown catch off a zone-read play-action fake. The safety's eyes were focused so long on Griffin that Robinson blew past him for an open score.
The Cowboys (2-3) have allowed three 400-yard passing games already. That said, the Redskins operate much better when Griffin throws 25 to 30 times, which could prevent him from having that sort of game. The Redskins were 8-3 last season in games Griffin attempted fewer than 30 passes.
Griffin played a solid game against a better defense at Oakland, showing the ability to elude pressure and make plays on the move rather than just tucking the ball and running. Where he must improve is on third downs: He's completed only 23 of 44 passes for 252 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions.
His legs do matter, but against the Cowboys, the legs belonging to Alfred Morris will matter even more. If Dallas doesn't stop him, it could have a tough day.
"I don't know that we're going to see an RG III that's not at his best," Jones said. "You say, 'C'mon, Jerry, be real, he hasn't been at his best.' But he's phenomenal and he's a unique and inordinate player. He's got not only physical skills, but I would have to say that mentally he's one of the smartest guys that we've seen in the National Football League. ...
"I know that we're preparing for him to be really effective."
Tim MacMahon of ESPNDallas.com contributed to this report.